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Sin Vergüenza (Como los Pájaros)

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The woman in the documentary reaches her hands
to the fence      touches her child through an opening
De mis manos      dolor     When I was a child      my mama
drove me to the swap meet on the other side
for a white dress & flowered wreath      my first
Holy Communion      the mamas nursing
on the roadside     selling chicle con sus
manos libres      Abuelo once rode in the casket
of a trunk      He rose again on our side of the border
which crossed Bisabuela’s family      Look
from my balcony      the sleeping sister
volcanoes shaped like breasts     I’ve
thought about leaving      Shoving
a duffel bag & laptop into the car     taking
the dog      But these babies I’ve wanted since
I was a child      That’s what girls do where I grew up
down the road from a landfill in the humid stench
of a beef plant & sugar beets     hulled & boiled
for their sweet white meat      I found an animal in a trap
who’d fought her way through high grasses
wasting to carcass in my own backyard
& I believe you know what a merciful act means
     I don’t know the words for the shame I’ve carried
The woman in the documentary needs papers
to get back to her children     They’d found her
in the hospital      without insurance      la migra
Mama nursed women who’d run through asparagus fields’
crackling heat      bellies full against the barbed wire
they’re still burying like umbilicals      roots on a battlefield
if the child’s a boy or the place where tortillas are made
for a girl      Don’t you dare say desert
The heat is unbearable & I’ve seen
them pulling anchors from legs
cursing bullet shells      In the hospital facing pig barns
& a graveyard      Mama in her scrubs & gloves
pulling newborns      bloodied like suicide wrists      Jars
of coins for the ferryman & La Virgen burning
an altar on my nightstand      Mis manos      Mis hijos
     Whatever fence I’ve erected from that salted curse
in my family’s blood      Release us
The woman on the screen whispers a prayer      Fly us
free as birds      Sin vergüenza I admit the darkness
I’ve swallowed      the hollow inside      Now      who will
unpin our hands      & toward sky      upraise them

Source: Poetry (March 2017)

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This poem originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of Poetry magazine

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Sin Vergüenza (Como los Pájaros)

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  • Jennifer Givhan is a Mexican-American poet from the Southwestern desert. She is the author of Landscape with Headless Mama (2015 Pleiades Editors’ Prize) and Protection Spell (2016 Miller Williams Series, University of Arkansas Press). Her chapbooks include Lifeline (Glass Poetry Press), The Daughter’s Curse (ELJ Editions), and Lieserl Contemplates Resurrection (dancing girl press). Her honors include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, a PEN/Rosenthal Emerging Voices Fellowship, The Frost Place Latin@ Scholarship, The 2015 Lascaux Review Poetry Prize, The Pinch Poetry Prize, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best of the Net, Best New Poets, AGNI, Ploughshares, Poetry, TriQuarterly, Crazyhorse, Blackbird, and The Kenyon Review. She lives with her family in New Mexico.

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